I once had a conversation with an ultra orthodox Israeli man about Israeli culture. In the course of the conversation we spoke about food, one of my favorite pastimes, and I began telling him about my favorite “Israeli” dishes. Much to my surprise, he interrupted me and said, “there is no such thing as Israeli food.” “What?”, I responded, perplexed and quite shocked. He repeated himself adding falafels, shakshuka, humus, cous cous — all of the traditional dishes I and most Israelis love to indulge in — were not created by Israelis but rather Arabs. This is why (and this is his proclamation) the best humus you’ll ever taste will be found in the Arab territory, which many Israelis have no qualms about travelling to, even under the most incogitable circumstances, to partake of. On more than one occasion I’ve had Israeli friends of mine tell me of their trips of unfettered joy to Arab cities such as Jaffa and Sinai during Jewish holy days such as Rosh Hashana or Pesach (Passover). No closed restaurants or shops.
As a Jewish person who adheres to the guidelines of holy days, particularly sabbatical ones, I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the thought of my Jewish friends frolicking with “the enemy” during a time which is supposed to be the celebration of Judaism. Friends who, by my standards, I would consider anti-Arab. Friends who have made statements on more than one occasion categorically referring to Arabs and Arab territories as dangerous. I, on the other hand, harbor no ill feelings or beliefs about Arabs — or any group of people for that matter — based solely on their ethnicity.
My life experience has not led me to believe that Arab people are more prone to violence than Russians, Australians or any other nationality of people. Which is why my frequenting of Arab restaurants or trips to Egypt are logical, coherent even. But for someone who has openly declared all things Arab abominable, to then turn around and patronize an Arab restaurant, particularly on a Jewish holy day is the deepest display of cognitive dissonance.
To eat from someone, in my opinion, involves the most intimate form of trust. Can you imagine eating from the table of your enemy? I surely cannot. It defies logic. But when we are dealing with cognitive dissonance all logic is discarded. Such is the case with the perpetual hatred and discrimination against Arabs by Israelis from the cradle to the grave. This ingrained belief that Arabs are evil and out to destroy all Jews. That they are our arch-enemy. It is a belief saturated in hatred and bigotry which is fueled by our leaders and government policies such as the recent Tel Aviv City Council decision to exclude Arabic from the city’s logo. A decision which scoffs in the face of the entire Arab community of Jaffa. It is not enough that Jaffa, a city once predominantly inhabited by Arabs and the residence of many Arab industries has progressively, through a process of gentrification, been usurped by Israelis. Elderly Arabs who have lived in their homes for 50 plus years are being handed eviction notices to make way for lavish and Jewish only residences.
Responding to the city council’s decision, Councilman Ahmed Mashrawi said,
“When Tel Aviv and Jaffa were united in 1950, the political goal that stood behind this decision was the desire to erase all of the glorious Arab history in Jaffa. “
Understandably so. Whenever previously held beliefs contradict with reality we must remove the dissonance. Well, we all know prior to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 that geographical space was a vast, open, uninhabited land waiting for the return of God’s chosen people. And by Divine order the land belongs to Jews solely, thus saith the Lord…yes, the God of Israel, the only God it seems who deals in real estate.